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Hop, Jump and Stick

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EPFL's Mirko Kovac

Mirko Kovac points to the perching mechanism on a robot which flies head first into an object without being destroyed, and attaches to almost any type of surface using sharp prongs, then detaches on command.

Credit: EPFL

The behavioral laws of insects have the potential to give robots a greater complexity of movement without the need for high computational power, says the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne's Mirko Kovac.

Kovac led a group of researchers who created a robot that can perch like an insect or bird, fly head first into an object, such as a tree, and attach itself using sharp prongs. The robot snaps its two spring-loaded arms to create forward momentum and to decelerate, while the glider's arms are fitted with pins to dig into a surface. A remotely controlled mini-motor is used to detract the pins and enable the robot to continue on its way. "We are not blindly imitating nature, but using the same principles to possibly improve on it," says Kovac, who previously developed a quarter-gram jumping robot.

Kovac describes jumping, gliding, and perching as a new form of artificial intelligence. Robots would have greater mobility without being bogged down with heavy batteries and Kovac envisions a swarm of robots with such AI capability traveling over rough terrain to aid catastrophe victims.

View a video of Mirko Kovac describing his robot and its perching mechanism.

From Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
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